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She looks at the links between incarceration and academics

Taylor Tucker ’20 and her mother, Tracy, agreed on one thing before either of them ever said it out loud: Tucker belonged at Swarthmore.

“I remember visiting the school and sitting with her in an admission meeting where we heard about the Black Studies Program and clubs like Swarthmore African-American Student Society (SASS), and the Black Cultural Center,” says Tucker, who moved to Pennsylvania from Delaware when she was in elementary school. “After that meeting, we both agreed I needed to come here.”

At the small private high school she attended, Tucker was often the only Black student in the class. The experience was alienating.

“I’d feel like I had to answer any questions relating to being Black, no matter what the question was,” says Taylor, now co-president of SASS with Wrenn Odim ’20.

But Swarthmore felt different as soon as she arrived.

“SASS made me feel more at home here, and made transitioning to Swarthmore easier,” she says. “The BCC was a home away from home. I didn’t feel like I was the only one anymore. I could be myself with a steady group of people and just hang out.”

In the classroom, faculty, including Assistant Professor of Sociology Nina Johnson (see p. 76) and Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Edwin Mayorga, inspired Tucker’s creativity and scholarship. This led to her senior-year research, “Into the Masters’ Hands: The Carceral Captivity and Exploitation of Black Female Bodies in Schools and Beyond,” which she presented at a Welcome Back Black Studies event in the fall.

Tucker plans to continue her exploration of the ways in which Black girls’ experiences of education are affected when they have a family member under the criminal justice system. As part of her research process last summer, Tucker spent time exploring youth-led movements in Philadelphia, and she hopes to formally work in a youth advocacy environment after she graduates.

“These groups are very concerned with the well-being of Black and Brown kids in Philadelphia schools and the importance of access to arts,” says Tucker. “It’s definitely something I would want to be a part of.”